Despite “credible claims” that Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi, the judge ruled that the Saudi crown prince was entitled to sovereign immunity and rejected the lawsuit against him.
Judge John Bates, a US district court judge with experience handling issues involving national security, acknowledged feeling “uncomfortable” about his choice but claimed that the Biden administration’s recent request that Prince Mohammed is granted immunity had essentially tied his hands.
The dismissal of the civil lawsuit, which was filed by Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz, and Dawn, a pro-democracy organization that the journalist founded, most likely signals the end of attempts to hold the coming Saudi king responsible for the 2018 killing.
The civil lawsuit against Prince Mohammed and two of his close friends, Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Asiri, was dismissed, allowing the Saudi heir to freely travel to the US and other countries.
The crown prince would have faced a legal minefield if the case had been allowed to proceed, and even though US prosecutors lacked the authority to detain him, a conviction might have jeopardized his financial interests in the US.
While the US government, in cahoots with its judiciary, are pursuing – and slowly killing – Julian Assange for revealing US crimes against humanity, US courts are acquitting the Butcher of Ryad. Day by day the US is forfeiting its soft power/moral capital https://t.co/yppkTHeiV1
— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) December 7, 2022
According to Abdullah Alaoudh, research director for Saudi Arabia at Dawn and a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, “One episode in our quest for justice for Jamal may have come to an end, but the war will never be done until all criminals, including MBS, are brought to justice.”
Saudi dissidents and Prince Mohammed detractors have previously expressed grave concerns about the possibility of the crown prince receiving immunity. They claimed that such a decision would solidify the 37-year-old prince’s aura of impunity and could be interpreted as giving him permission to target other journalists and dissidents around the globe.
The gruesome murder of Khashoggi in 2018 sparked outrage across the globe. Agnes Callamard, who was at the time the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial murders, conducted an inquiry and concluded that Khashoggi had been the victim of a “deliberate, premeditated execution” for which the Saudi Arabian government was liable under international human rights law.
Khashoggi had been challenged by Saudi authorities in his dying moments, according to Callamard, who used recordings of conversations from within the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was killed and dismembered with a bone saw. One of the Saudi officials reportedly said: “We are coming to get you.”
Her research indicated that in the moments that followed, noises resembling a struggle and rustling plastic suggested that the Washington Post columnist may have been suffocated by a plastic bag.
The Saudi Arabian government, President Recep Tayyip Erdoan of Turkey, Joe Biden, and other individuals were named by Callamard, who is currently the director general of Amnesty International, as having “contributed to the impunity for the state murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
“And I’m not even naming all the politicians, corporate leaders, and organizers of sporting and cultural events that courted did business with, or bought from the state that killed Jamal Khashoggi.
This is how the world really is. Human rights and press freedom were violated. Repeatedly. But we remain standing. We continue to battle. And we have not lost. We are aware of the reality, she said.
Although Prince Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the death, he has refuted any claims that he personally authorized it.
Years have passed since then-candidate Biden suggested that Prince Mohammed should be treated as a “global pariah” for his alleged involvement in the murder and pledged to hold the Saudi crown prince accountable if elected president.
Soon after taking office, it seemed like Biden would keep his word regarding the campaign.